To Comps or Not to Comps

[Editors Note: Last week I noted that some students had switched from the Portfolio process to the comprehensive exam a bit late in the game, and said that I would try to get some folks to contribute their experiences about the process. Second year Kassie Chapel has been committed to doing Comps since late in her first year, and was kind enough to share her thoughts with all of us! So without further ado, here she is.]

The Student Development Administration (SDA) program at Seattle University currently offers one of two culminating experiences for SDA students to complete prior to graduation – the Portfolio or the Comprehensive Exam (otherwise known as Comps). While I entered the SDA program with the intention of completing a reflective portfolio as my culminating experience, I realized around spring of my first year in the program that I would be more successful by completing Comps.

My SDA mentor who was a continuing student took the Comps exam during winter quarter of my first year. Hearing about her decision-process and her preparation for the exam was the catalyst for my decision regarding whether or not to take Comps. Speaking with my mentor she offered me a lot of advantages for taking the Comps exam instead of completing the portfolio. My mentor was balancing a full-time job, job searching, and also completing the SDA program similar to myself. By choosing to take Comps she was able to manage her time and responsibilities better. My mentor also spoke about her strengths in a learning environment and how taking the Comps exam better reflected her learning style.

Working as a Resident Director and making an hour commute to and from Seattle, I was concerned with the amount of time that Portfolio would take in preparation, attending additional meetings, and the necessity of working with a variety of other people’s schedules. I recognized that I would also have to balance Portfolio in addition to beginning the job search that requires time away and a lot of application preparation, and of course, taking courses and completing course work for SDA. Recognizing what time I had available and where I could spend it, the independent nature of the Comps exam without relying on anyone else to help me complete the exam and the flexibility of when I could study for the exam really addressed these time management needs.

I also considered my own learning styles and where in the past I had succeeded as a student demonstrating knowledge. I thought as far back as high school where I did really well with AP English exams, which were structured similar to the Comps exam – several hours to write essays answering prompts based on course content and knowledge. Additionally, during my undergraduate career I always seemed to do better with final exams that were structured similarly to Comps. I also had the opportunity to reaffirm my decision by completing practice artifacts for both Comps and Portfolio within my Capstone for Student Development course, and I definitely was more confident and felt more successful with the Comps artifacts.

Looking at my process of preparing for the exam and having now completed it, I am grateful for this opportunity and confident that I was better able to demonstrate my learning through Comps as opposed to the Portfolio project. I think in retrospect taking Comps relieved a lot of stress and anxiety that I would have otherwise have faced completing the Portfolio project. I think taking Comps really suited my needs in balancing school, work, and beginning the job search process during winter quarter. Taking Comps also supported my goal to complete the program early because I could take the exam within my timeline. It’s certainly nerve-wracking to wait the couple of weeks for feedback and the news of whether or not you pass the exam, but in the end the words, “Congratulations! You’ve passed your comprehensive exam” are totally worth it!


About Brandon

Blogging about my steady diet of culture.

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